Pagoda Enters a New Era of DiningCover Story Features
September 14, 2014
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Through 50 years of serving the community and visitors alike, Pagoda Floating Restaurant represents a local icon known for its fusion of stellar cuisine and unforgettable oasis-like ambience.
Surrounded by koi ponds, lush gardens and cascading waterfalls, Pagoda offers up a wide range of Asian-, American- and Hawaiian-influenced local-style comfort food enveloped by a tranquil, natural setting. Under the guidance of executive chef Jason Takemura — the culinary craftsman in charge of kitchen operations at both Pagoda and The Hukilau in downtown Honolulu — the menu has undergone a makeover of sorts. More locally grown ingredients and fresh flavors are incorporated in an effort to attract new generations of diners, while also keeping regulars coming back for more.
Takemura explains that while the process has involved a great deal of work, he takes pride in seeing customers enjoy themselves in the family-friendly setting, where diners of all ages can enjoy their favorite meals while also taking time to feed the giant koi. The chef notes that Pagoda’s servers and hosts are known for providing excellent customer service, and he recalls bringing members of the kitchen staff on excursions to the fish auction and local farms to show them where the restaurant’s ingredients come from, and how the fresh products make such a noticeable difference in food quality, presentation and taste.
“We’re aiming to bring the Pagoda back to what it used to be,” Takemura says. “We’re tossing around some ideas and playing with some new concepts. The goal is to bring in a new crowd, and we’ve received a lot of good feedback so far.”
One of Takemura’s initiatives was introducing a la carte dining options for breakfast, lunch and dinner to supplement Pagoda’s iconic dinner and Sunday brunch buffets. Diners rave about numerous breakfast favorites served from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, including Kalua Hash Benedict ($13), which features two English muffins topped with kalua hash, two poached eggs laced with hollandaise sauce and lomi tomato. The eye-catching and appetite-pleasing dish is served with a choice of rice, paniolo potatoes, hash browns or toast.
Takemura’s “sweet tooth” comes through in Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast ($11.50), featuring four large French toast pieces dusted with powdered sugar and topped with butterscotch banana sauce and whipped cream. Sweet-seeking diners may also find solace in Baked Apple Pancake ($10.50), a large pancake cooked in the oven to provide a fluffy texture that tastes just like apple pie and is topped with a salted caramel sauce. Both dishes come with a choice of bacon, Portuguese sausage or link sausage.
“The Kalua Benedict is my wife’s favorite, and my favorite when it comes to savory dishes for breakfast,” the chef explains. “I have a sweet tooth, which explains the dessert-for-breakfast theme. That’s what I like to eat; that’s what I would put together at home.”
Diners of all ages can still look forward to Pagoda’s must-try dinner buffet ($38.95, $18.95 for children 5-8 years old) available Friday through Sunday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. The diverse buffet offers a multitude of options: a poke bar with shrimp cocktail, ahi and tako poke, kim chee mussels, tofu and edamame poke; a chef’s station featuring slow-roasted prime rib of beef with au jus and horseradish as well as a hand roll sushi station; various entree choices, such as the must-try Steamed Kona Kampachi with Ginger Pesto; and a dessert bar featuring assorted fresh fruits, cakes and pies, and soft-serve ice cream with toppings.
“We’ve always been known for our prime rib, crab legs and tempura, but the kampachi dish is drawing a lot of attention and we’ve received lots of positive feedback,” Takemura says. “There are a lot of entree dishes, including the fresh fish and poke, that we offer to enhance the dining experience. Value-wise, you can’t go wrong.”
The Sunday brunch buffet ($35.95, $17.95 for children 5-8 years old) is offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and serves up Hot Snow Crab Legs (also available on dinner buffet) as well as golden crisp shrimp and vegetable tempura, breakfast meats, French toast and the ever-popular made-to-order omelet station with assorted fillings, and a waffle station complete with an array of toppings.
Diners at Pagoda are treated to free parking at the adjacent lot on Rycroft Street from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and may park for just $1 per hour after that.
Pagoda also offers catering options and delivery for those hosting a business function, tailgate party or other gathering off site, as well as private dining areas for in-house meetings, parties and various functions. For more information, call 948-8354 or log on to www.PagodaHawaii.com.
Pagoda Floating Restaurant
1525 Rycroft St., Honolulu
Breakfast, 6:30 A.M. To 1 P.M. Daily;
Lunch, 11 A.M. To 2 P.M. Monday Through Friday;
Dinner, 5 To 9:30 P.M. Daily;
Dinner Buffet, 5 To 9:30 P.M. Friday Through Sunday;
Sunday Brunch Buffet, 10 A.M. To 2 P.M.